A jazz and blues festival may seem like an unlikely place for a 50th anniversary tribute to Woodstock to take place. But as Rob Paparozzi noted soon after he took the stage at the ninth annual Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival — which took place Aug. 17 on Morristown Green — there was some jazz and blues at Yasgur’s Farm. And he was uniquely qualified to honor it.
Jazz-rock pioneers Blood, Sweat & Tears played at Woodstock after all. And Paparozzi, a Linden native who now lives in Mendham, was a BST member from 2005 to 2011.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (and other blues-rock groups) performed at the original Woodstock, too. In 2014, Paparozzi and Ed Palermo collaborated on Electric Butter, an album paying tribute to both Butterfield and Electric Flag.
Paparozzi and Max Morden, a member of his Juke Joint band, began the set by performing John Sebastian’s “How Have You Been” (a Woodstock song), with both playing acoustic guitars and Paparozzi singing. Paparozzi then brought out a special guest: original Blood, Sweat & Tears guitarist Steve Katz.
They started with the Skip James blues song, “Crow Jane”; Katz played acoustic guitar and sang while Paparozzi added harmonica riffs. Then Katz performed a hypnotic solo version of his melancholy Blood, Sweat & Tears ballad, “Sometimes in Winter” — which he performed at Woodstock, coincidentally, 50 years ago to the day. Katz mentioned that he had just heard, last week, a recording of that performance for the first time, and liked how it sounded.
Paparozzi and his full Juke Joint band continued in a Woodstock vein for much of their set, playing songs by or associated with Woodstock artists, though not necessarily performed at Woodstock itself. These included two more Blood, Sweat & Tears songs (“Spinning Wheel” and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”) as well as material by Butterfield (“Born in Chicago,” “Driftin’ Blues,” “Walking by Myself”), Canned Heat (“Going Up the Country,” with Morden’s daughter Amanda on flute), The Band (“The Weight,” “Ophelia”) and Stephen Stills (“Love the One You’re With”).
And there was still plenty of room in the set for other things, like R&B classics “Soul Man” and “Knock On Wood,” tributes to New Orleans musical giants Allen Toussaint (“What Do You Want the Girl to Do?”) and Dr. John (“Something You Got”), and Delbert McClinton’s “Monkey Around,” which Paparozzi sang with the late Phoebe Snow on his 2009 album, Etruscan Soul.
That’s obviously a pretty wide range of material to cover in one set, but Paparozzi’s big, versatile Juke Joint band — featuring many musicians who have been mainstays of the New York/New Jersey music scene for years — made it look easy. Joining Max Morden (on trumpet and guitar) and Amanda Morden (who played some sax in addition to flute) were John Korba on keyboards and vocals, George Naha on guitar, Sue Williams on bass, Warren Odze on drums, Tom Timko on sax, Vinnie Cutro on trumpet and Tom “Bones” Malone on trombone.
Paparozzi’s Juke Joint was the third of five acts at the marathon festival, which emphasized jazz in the early afternoon and blues-rock at night.
Davy Knowles, who headlined, and Bernard Allison, who played before him, are fiery guitar virtuosos, and gave nods to the Woodstock Generation, too: Knowles with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Almost Cut My Hair” and Allison with Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.” Other memorable numbers included Knowles’ earthy take on The Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues” (which he recalled playing at pubs as a young musician on the Isle of Man) and Allison’s “Bad Love” and “Serious” (both written by his father, blues legend Luther Allison).
Before Paparozzi performed, guitarist Frank Vignola played standards with support from guitarist Vinny Raniolo and bassist Gary Mazaroppi; his smooth, dexterous solos and light touch was very much in the spirit of Bucky Pizzarelli, whom he has accompanied at this festival in the past.
Antoinette Montague capped her opening set with “Jazz Woman to the Rescue,” in which she donned a cape, superhero-style, and paid tribute to legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Here are some great videos taken Aug. 17 by Kevin Coughlin of MorristownGreen.com.
Paparozzi and the Ed Palermo Big Band will present their “Electric Butter” show, featuring the music of Paul Butterfield, Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Parker Press Park in Woodbridge. Visit woodbridgeartsnj.org.
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